So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
Conversations about biases, racism and how they infect nearly every aspect of life.
Presence by Amy Cuddy
How to bring your boldest, most authentic self to challenging situations.
Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs
A memoir about growing up as the daughter of Steve Jobs.
A Promised Land by Barack Obama
He’s a great storyteller and his reflections on his presidency and his life confirm what I’ve always thought—he’s a good man.
Is This Anything? by Jerry Seinfeld
A compilation of his favorite material over his long career. I also admire his dedication to his craft, choosing to return to stand up vs. retiring on a beach (on his own island, probably).
The Brain’s Way of Healing: Remarkable Discoveries and Recoveries from the Frontiers of Neuroplasticity by Norman Doidge
Such a hopeful book. It’s only recently that neuroscientists have confirmed the plasticity of the brain. Reminiscent of the late Oliver Sacks, Doidge presents the latest research and case studies to bolster research findings. As he says, “the true marvel is … the way … the brain has evolved, with sophisticated and neuroplastic abilities and a mind that can direct its own unique restorative process of growth.
The Sediments of Time: My Lifelong Search for the Past by Meave Leakey
Yes. Meave is part of “that” Leakey family. The daughter-in-law of Louis and Mary Leakey and part of three generations of paleoanthropological royalty, she tells her story along with her youngest daughter, Samira. Her discoveries have changed how we think about our origins. Instead of straight-line, ape-to-human progression, her work suggests human species living simultaneously.
What It’s Like to be a Bird: From Flying to Nesting, Eating to Singing —What Birds Are Doing, and Why by David Allen Sibley
During the early days of the pandemic, so many commentators marveled at their ability to hear the birds singing. It was finally quiet enough to hear birdsong. Birdsong. Is there anything more beautiful or hopeful? This encyclopedia of bird behavior contains a whopping 330 illustrations, many of them life size. Browsing through this volume, it is exciting to learn as much as possible about the creatures that we share this planet with—creatures we can finally hear.
Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor
Modern man has forgotten how to breath properly, says James Nestor. I had no idea that breathing with the proper tempo, depth and even orifice has a such powerful impact on health, emotional wellbeing and even disease vectors. Who knew breathing would be such a big deal in 2020?
Dignity: Seeking Respect in Back Row America by Chris Arnade
No matter how many Lululemons and Whole Foods are in your neighborhood, you are only a short drive away from a much harsher America. A successful Wall Street banker, Arnade took long walks to clear his mind. On one walk he stumbled into a surprising community⏤poor, drug addicted, hopeless, dispossessed and forgotten New Yorkers living where Manhattan meets the Bronx. Over time he befriended and then photographed the residents of Hunts Point in a remarkably respectful manner. After discovering “back row America” is everywhere, Arnade left his job on Wall Street to introduce them to us. This book touched me deeply.
Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief by Jordan B. Petersen
Imagine Moses, Fredrich Nietzsche, Charles Darwin, Joseph Campbell, Malcolm Gladwell and Dr. Laura coming together to help us understand how our universe, biology, psychology, history and more create a framework for the ways we see and believe “reality.” Fascinating!
Empathy: Why It Matters, And How to Get It by Roman Krznaric
This book inspired the A Mile in My Shoes traveling museum, a collection of curated personal stories in the form of short podcasts where the listener also walks around in the author’s shoes.
Standoff: Race, Policing and a Deadly Assault that Gripped a Nation by Jamie Thompson
Jamie was my college roommate. Its timeliness is apparent. Included on a short list of books recommended to read about this issue. Plus, I always love giving her a plug.
Also, The Fortunate Ones by Ed Tarkington (see below). The latest by another contemporary of mine at Furman University. I enjoyed his first novel, Only Love Can Break Your Heart.
Homeland Elegies: A Novel by Ayad Akhtar
Death in Mud Lick: A Coal Country Fight against the Drug Companies that Delivered the Opioid Epidemic by Eric Eyre.
Eric Eyre and Ayad Akhtar were on a list of 2020 books recommended by the New York Times Book Review and given to me at Christmas. Hope to make it through before next Christmas.
The Fortunate Ones by Ed Tarkington
This is the second novel from an old college buddy who everyone knew would always write amazing novels. As predicted, it’s really good.
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Inspiring and disturbing, this alt-history page-turner will keep you thinking.
The Expats by Chris Pavone
When you just want to read something fun.
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Because I’m craving a classic.
How to Read the Constitution and Why by Kim Wehle
Because it feels necessary.
A Village Life by Louise Gluck
Because this is a score for American poets. She was the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 27 years.
Pity the Reader by Kurt Vonnegut and Suzanne McConnell
Because Vonnegut has a distinct and quirky literary voice and I’m curious to hear his perspective on the craft.
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
His second novel to win a Pulitzer Prize. It is a fascinating glimpse into a dark time in American history seen through the eyes of a young black man in a segregated reform school in the South just one generation removed.
The Stand by Stephen King
I have always been a fan of King and, so far, I think this might be his finest work. Also, while the book was written decades ago, it is so relevant to what we are seeing in the world as the subject of the novel is a global pandemic. Wonderful character development and a real pager tuner. I can’t put it down.
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell.
The book is about how choices made without thinking aren’t actually as simple as they may seem.
America Was Hard to Find: A Novel by Kathleen Alcott.
The story, beginning in the late fifties, of a brief love affair and the child who resulted.
The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee.
The book traces the known history of our “most feared ailment” from its earliest appearances over five thousand years ago to the present, and the war that is still being waged.
A Torch Kept Lit: Great Lives of the 20th Century by William F. Buckley, Jr.
Among Buckley’s many talents was an ability to see promise in most people regardless of their politics. This collection of that most challenging of the written arts – the eulogy – demonstrates both Buckley’s talent and his gift for seeing the best in people. Here, he shares final thoughts concerning 52 souls, including figures some readers might be surprised to see this famous political conservative comment upon in such fashion, such as John Lennon, Jerry Garcia and John Kenneth Galbraith.
If you’ve read one of these or have a great suggestion of your own, we’d love to hear from you.